Schmaltz and the Rebellion. German Pop and Its Language | – Culture – Book

Status: 05/16/2022 12:27 PM

Jens Balzer thinks a lot about pop music in all its aspects. His most recent coup d’état: “Schmalz und Rebellion”, a history of language in German pop from the 1950s to the present day.

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by Alexandra Friedrich

“You can only sing about sex in English / It can sound awkward easily in German.”

The Hamburg Tocotronic says it all: the divided relationship between Germans, their language, and their history. How this contradiction manifests itself in pop music in particular is the subject of Jens Balzer’s new book. A lesson on country history accompanied by pop music. How do social and political developments affect the language of pop music and vice versa? The author finds various answers to this question in “Schmalz und Rebellion” from wandering ballads of the 1950s, East German punk songs of the 1980s and what is called real rap today. Balzer gives free rein to his preference for the odd and the weird.

The focus is less on trends and big names in pop music than on unlit side streets and champions swimming against the mainstream or being sidelined by it.

“Gastarbeiter-Musik” from the 1970s

Based on the contribution of immigrants to German pop history, Balzer shows how repressed voices find increasing volume and presence in the midst of society. The so-called ‘Gastarbeiter-Musik’, which developed in the 1970s with the first wave of migrant workers, was incredibly successful with its audience, but it happened under the complete exclusion of the mainstream German public, i.e. the majority society, which simply wasn’t interested in it” he explains buttoned.

Songs that dealt with longing for the lost homeland and the disappointment that the Germans saw the invited guests only as workers and not as people.
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These are the songs that are attracting attention today, re-released for sampling as “Songs of Gasstarbeiter”. However, at the time of its creation, this music was still under the radar of the general public.

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Jens Balzer, Lecturer in Pop Criticism at UdK Berlin © picture alliance Photo: Ulrich Baumgarten

Author Jens Balzer talks about his new book, A History of Language in German Pop Music from the 1950s to the Present Day. more

Advanced chemistry criticized over structural racism 30 years ago

This only began to change with the music of the next generation of immigrant musicians. At least through hip-hop, I’ve found access to mainstream music. Advanced Chemistry did pioneering work about 30 years ago. Heidelbergers sing about everyday discrimination and structural racism long before these terms entered the broader debate. The lines look so contemporary that one wonders: Didn’t we move at all? Nothing changed?

Button thought: Yes! For him, this was proved mainly by a young generation of musicians. Like Nachi 44. A German-Vietnamese rapper knows how to be labeled “different” just because she doesn’t sound “typically German”. This question: “Where are you from?”. But she has a different attitude and finds a different answer:

Yes, shamelessly / Germans ask / Where did I come from / Yes, I come / From the Pussy / From the Kuchi / From Con Chim / My mother
Nashi 44

‘Losers outnumbered by history’

Nashi44 no longer feels torn between two worlds, as the so-called guest workers used to sing. She no longer feels “a stranger in her own country” like her rap predecessors did Advanced Alchemy.

Because in the meantime, this “country” has become so diverse that all those who want to be branded as foreigners show themselves as stigmatized losers (the “Germans”) outnumbered by history.
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“They belong to us, of course, and anyone who wants to mark them as different or stigmatize is putting themselves outside the consensus of this diverse community,” Balzer says. “And I really believe this is a statement that reflects our society’s equal present, as well as crafting a positive utopia for how we treat each other.”

Jane Baler does not present the absolute facts

One looks in vain at the scientific treatises and studies of sociologists, linguists and musicologists in the Schmalz und Rebellion. Balzer, who as a cultural journalist has been observing and commenting on the world of pop music for decades, trusts his own point of view and, of course, the wisdom of art. And that is enough, because it is not about finding the absolute truths. In return, we certainly get entertaining and motivating motivations to think in this narrow 200-page article.

Lard and rebellion. German pop and its language

by Jeans Balzer

page number:
224 pages
Order number:
20 EUR

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Culture NDR | New books | 05/16/2022 | 12:40 pm

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